A handgrip screening test may be a simple, low-cost way to identify patients at-risk of type 2 diabetes (T2D), according to a new study published in Annals of Medicine

Diabetes in all forms is the ninth major cause of death in the world. Approximately 90% of all diabetes cases are T2D and in the United Kingdom, 1 in 10 adults over the age of 40 are living with T2D, according to the study. 

If nothing changes, more than 5 million people will have developed diabetes by 2025. Risk factors for T2D are older age, obesity, family history, and other lifestyle factors, such as physical activity. However, all of these factors do not explain the development of T2D alone, according to the study. Reduced muscular strength has been linked to early death, disability, and cardiovascular disease, and can be measured with handgrip strength. 

In a study of 776 people between the ages of 60 and 72 years with a history of diabetes over a 20-year period, researchers sought to determine whether there was a correlation between grip strength and diabetes. Participants squeezed the hands of a dynamometer with their dominant hand with maximum isometric effort and maintained this grip for 5 seconds. Until recently, the relationship between handgrip strength and T2D has been inconsistent.

The study found that the risk of T2D was reduced by approximately 50% for every unit increase in handgrip strength. This was consistent with traditional markers such as family history and physical activity. When combined with these traditional factors, the prediction of T2D with the handgrip test improved further. Importantly, the findings were especially pronounced in women. 

"These findings may have implications for the development of type 2 diabetes prevention strategies. Assessment of handgrip is simple, inexpensive and does not require very skilled expertise and resources and could potentially be used in the early identification of individuals at high risk of future type 2 diabetes," lead author Setor Kunutsor, PhD, said in the press release.

Further research is still needed to determine whether efforts to improve muscle strength, such as resistance training, can reduce a patient’s risk of developing T2D, the study authors concluded.  

Reference:

Handgrip strength shown to identify people at high risk of type 2 diabetes (Press release) Bristol, UK, September 2, 2020, EurekAlert! Accessed September 2, 2020